I was struck by a moment of revelation recently as I dined alone at a plush Delhi restaurant. My server placed a levitating chocolate ball in front of me and that was when it hit me— Why is eating alone considered to be such a bad thing? I had reached the end of my 19 course meal at the legendary Masala Library by Jiggs Kalra and I realized I was almost glad I didn't bring anyone along. I was able to savour every morsel in peace and it was such a great feeling.
In an effort celebrate the beauty and variety of centuries-old traditions which are a part of the Indian culinary heritage, the restaurant launches a new menu every season. Taking the best dishes from different parts of the country, the menu is designed in a way that almost makes you feel like you are travelling through the country just via your taste buds.
My journey began with a shot of amuse bouche—a truly amusing concoction of mango jelly in coconut water that looked like an egg cracked open. You have to give it to the restaurant for its unique style of serving food because the next dish which was clear rasam came in a test-tube like contraption with teeny tiny vadas on top. Then came the deconstructed samosa which looked nothing like a regular samosa but contained all the elements of a samosa including the crust. This was followed by a jhalmuri cookie!
The main course started with a farmer’s staple sattu paratha, a form of form of bread filled with roasted and spiced gram flour that is popular in the UP-Bihar region. It was followed by mushroom chai—an aromatic brew made of a blend of 7 different mushrooms with a hint of truffle essence. The bold flavors of this particular creation made it one of my favourites.
The cuisine served at Masala Library are a result of Mr. Kalra’s philosophy of progressive Indian cuisine. While it showcases the diversity of Indian food in a unique style with vibrant colours there is certainly no compromise made when it comes to flavours.
You can tell the ingredients used are fresh especially when you order seafood. The reconstructed prawn cake with tempered coconut that came next was the perfect example—it was fresh and juicy with the perfect blend of flavours. Each dish was carefully spiced using modern culinary techniques. While molecular gastronomy forms an important part of the restaurant’s new age rendition of Indian cuisine it is not used mindlessly just to attract attention. In fact it only heightens the experience of every element in a dish.
The Northeast-inspired Naga pork with braised beans and bamboo shoot was another hit for me. The pork belly used was crisp on the outside and cooked perfectly on the inside and the smoked ghost chilly only took the already rich flavours a notch higher. It was followed by a Mizo-style chicken stew served with black rice which was absolutely delicious—the perfect example of comfort food I'd say. Another favorite was the galouti kebab served with air-fried sheermal. It literally melted in my mouth and I am not exaggerating.
At the end of the main course I still had space for three different types of dessert that included jalebi caviar and ashen kulfi that was made out of burnt banana stem. The final dessert in the form of levitating chocolate balls that was put together using magnets and copper oxide ended the fulfilling dinner on a dramatic yet memorable note. As you can imagine it took me a while to walk to my cab.